Canada loses 19,700 jobs in April, unemployment still at 6.8 per cent

Details better than headline: Economist

OTTAWA (Reuters) — Canada's economy shed 19,700 jobs in April as losses in part-time work offset gains in full-time positions, while the unemployment rate remained at 6.8 per cent, Statistics Canada said on Friday.

Analysts had expected a net job loss of 5,000 positions. The data highlighted that Canada is still struggling to boost employment some six years after the end of the Great Recession.

Part-time employment dropped by 66,500 jobs, the biggest fall since the loss of 77,500 posts in March 2011. Full-time employment rose by 46,900 jobs.

The 12-month gain came to 139,100 jobs, an advance of 0.8 per cent, while the six-month average for employment growth was just 2,600 jobs, down from 16,300 in March.

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz, who has long expressed concern over the sluggish job market, last week forecast the economy would return to full employment by 2016.

The labour participation rate, which is of particular interest to the central bank, fell to 65.8 per cent from 65.9 per cent in March. In December 2014 and January 2015 it had hit 65.7 per cent, the lowest since the 65.6 per cent recorded in July 2000.

"It was a disappointment, obviously, in the headline, but the details behind it weren't really as bad. If you look, the full-time employment was firmer than expected. That was also true with private paid employment, and you did get some signs of an improvement in manufacturing as well. If you look at those factors, it offsets some of the disappointment with headline number itself," said Mark Chandler, head of Canadian fixed income and currency strategy at RBC.

"Because full-time, hours worked, wages, things like that, were looking a little bit better, (the Bank of Canada) can legitimately say what (senior deputy governor) Carolyn Wilkins mentioned before, that you are seeing signs from broader labour market indicators that there's improvement."

The details are better than the headline suggests, said Derek Holt, economist at Scotiabank.

"At least we had a pretty sizeable gain in full-time jobs, and part-time jobs just gave back the prior month's gain.

The big picture story is that Canadian employment on a smooth trend basis is showing surprising resilience since oil prices peaked last summer," he said. "I think the Bank of Canada will look at the trend in employment and be encouraged that we're not getting the sharp drop-off in overall employment levels that had been feared."

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